I have been cautious on the stock market since the latter stages of the huge Fed QE program.
Historically, programs like this represent sustained emergency easing and they are very supportive
of investor and private sector confidence. There have been few of them, but when they terminate,
the absence of the strong tail wind they provide to the economy and the markets can susbstantially
diminish confidence. In the absence of large QE, the economy must transition to a credit driven
recovery / expansion and away from one that is liquidity driven, and so must a stock bull market if
it is to survive.
US economic growth has again slowed down over the past year, but consumer, business and banker
confidence has remained relatively solid. Profits have contracted moderately on low sales volume
growth and pricing power and have taken a large hit from weaker oil and gas prices with lower
costs for net energy consumers only partially offsetting resource provider bottom line erosion.
The stock market had been using the idea that low inflation and interest rates reduce the equity
investment hurdle rate which should entitle investors to enjoy a higher p/e ratio on earnings. In
fact, the vast proportion of the advance in the in the stock market since the autumn of 2011
reflects the progressive rise of the p/e ratio.
My view on the stock market has been that primary and secondary fundamentals, while they have
eroded, are still positive, but that the termination of the powerful liquidity tailwind from QE 3
reduces positive return potential and raises risk.
I am not smart enough to explain exactly why the market has been so shaky since China cut its
dollar peg shortly back, but I suspect that without the big US liquidity tailwind, investor confidence
is more vulnerable to contrary economic developments. Even so, I have been surprised by the
powerful wave of selling.
The SPX is wildly oversold, and because the economy is muddling along positively, I must say
something I may very probably regret, but this kind of panicky action looks crazy, stupid to me.
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!